Obituary: James Boyce

James Boyce, politician: born Paisley 6 September 1947; Member (Labour) Sheffield City Council 1984-92; MP (Labour) for Rotherham 1992-94; twice married (two sons); died Rotherham 25 January 1994.

THE SAD and sudden death of James Boyce has deprived Parliament of one of its most colourful and humorous characters. Honest and outspoken, he was liked by those who had met him and loved by those who knew him.

Jimmy Boyce was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1947. His early years, many of which were spent working in a foundry, helped very much to shape his commitment to socialism. He was not a revolutionary but proud to be a rebel. His cause was to make life better for people: he despised unemployment, poverty and those who caused it. As a trade unionist in the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) and as a Sheffield City Councillor he worked tirelessly for his people and against 'the nightmare of Thatcherism'.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he used all his skills from his studies for his Industrial and Trade Union diploma as a means of pushing forward for progress on the things he believed in.

It was a very proud moment for him when he was elected MP for Rotherham at the last election and an honour to serve his people at a national level. He was a determined working-class politician and warmed to the banter of the chamber and he was at home giving the Government a hard time from the Labour benches. Every time the Prime Minister got to his feet Boyce would shout, just at the right moment, 'Resign'; and he meant it.

He lived and breathed his socialism in earnest and during the past few weeks of illness he missed his work very much. The politician was hard and unrelenting towards those who used others. The man was kind, warm and considerate, his repartee was instant and reflected his tough upbringing and early working life. He was a gregarious man, who loved life and liked nothing better than being surrounded by other people, and his presence will be missed by many of his colleagues at the House. A proud Scot, but an adopted Yorkshireman, he amused us all with his affectionate attempts at a Yorkshire accent.

Parliament was given a hint of what to expect from the man, when, after dealing with the Government's record on poverty, unemployment, privatisation and tax handouts to the rich, he wound up his maiden speech in May 1992 with 'I shall return to this subject at every opportunity, and every time that they fail to make life better for the people of Rotherham; I will accuse them and they will stand indicted.' And he did.

Jimmy Boyce's determined and conscientious approach to his work was very much shaped by the many trials of his past. He clearly had so much to offer as an MP and many will share a great feeling of regret that he should have been robbed of success so soon after he had obtained it, and without having the chance of fully realising what he wanted to achieve.

(Photograph omitted)